tv Fault Lines Al Jazeera August 30, 2014 7:00pm-7:31pm EDT
>> it's still months before college football season kicks off, but the team at northwestern university is in the middle of a 40 hour work week. >> they are traveling more than even 10 years ago, they're being asked to sacrifice more they're asked to treat their sport as a year-round endeavor. so the demands on them are so intense that it has put them in a situation where it's like a fight or die situation. >> players earn no pay other
than a scholarship to attend class. their coach, pat fitzgerald, says that's compensation enough for student athletes. >> i'm a football coach, i'm a teacher, i'm an educator, alright? this isn't what i signed up to be, i signed up to help these guys develop to be the best they can be, not to be an employer. >> but in january, his players demanded to be considered employees, becoming the first college team to seek a union. >> guys come in here and bash all day, then then they're injured 5 years down the road and they get nothing. >> right now, athletes don't receive long-term medical care, and can't collect a paycheck or form a union. the national collegiate athletic association -- or ncaa -- sets the rules for college sports. but those rules could soon be overturned. fault lines investigates the multi-billion-dollar business of college football, the players who produce that wealth, and their demands for a more equitable game.
>> i just hope the ncaa does understand that some things do need to change. >> the first thing right behind me, you guys see our lovely bookstore. lots of orange apparel. you guys all got coupons for that. ten percent off. head in there afterwards. today is solid orange friday which is a little bit of a tradition in tigertown. with anybody who has attended clemson we all like to show our orange around clemson on friday. if you want to become part of this family, get your orange today. >> we've joined along with a tour of clemson campus. we're following abby, she's a sophomore here, and she clearly loves clemson. and a couple times college football has come up as a big part of the life here. it's actually a 40 million dollar enterprise for the schools. >> now the part of the tour you've probably all been waiting for. if you look right through here, you can all see death valley. who's been to a game at death valley? >> clemson university has one of the 25 most lucrative football
programs in the country. >> we have the spring game tomorrow, which is great because a lot of people have been waiting for football season to start back up. and it's not abnormal for a lot of our season ticket holders and alum to travel to this game even though it's just clemson against clemson. >> one of those alums is darius robinson, who just played his last season at clemson. >> darius is playing professional football now, but making it there was a financial struggle. >> i came from a household where both of my parents didn't go to school, so we didn't necessarily have the type of income to provide my sister with a good education and to be able to help me out whenever i needed it. >> his scholarship didn't cover the cost of living, so he started a business in college. but when he began using his name and image to promote it, the ncaa threw the book at him.
>> there's so many rules saying what we can't do. in my mind, i had the mindset like, what can we do? everything in the rulebook is, student athlete cannot do this, cannot do that, cannot do this, cannot do that. what about what a student athlete can do? >> ncaa rules prevent current athletes from making money off their fame. darius is part of a class action lawsuit to overturn that ban. >> we've been working hard our whole lives, we've been doing this since we were 6 and 7 years old. so for someone to say that because you're a student-athlete, you can't even promote yourself and be who you are, because you're a student-athlete, to me i find that very disrespectful. >> it's gameday, and on main street, the football economy is in high gear. the clemson tiger paw is one of the highest-grossing logos in college sports, and it's the players who draw the crowd. >> they have #2 and i'll bet you, they have, yep, #10...
>> those are the jerseys worn by clemson's star players -- sammy watkins and tajh boyd. >> all of this merchandise is a $4 billion a year industry. and now that tahj and sammy are not actually college football players, they're getting ready for the nfl draft, they can make some money off of this, and they're actually here today in the store signing autographs for $30. and there's a line out the door of people waiting to get their autograph. >> we have sweats, we have ties, we have hats, we have bags, we have flip flops, we have watches, we have flags, we have wallets, we have keychains, we have jewelry. we have everything down to nightlights, to stuffed animals, to sink stoppers. i have a guitar, i have drumsticks... >> would you like to see the players get some money from the jerseys with their number on them? >> um, if that happened from a
business standpoint, we'd have to jack up our prices... >> what are the ends of the ncaa? on one hand its easy answer to that. that has to do with profit, and that has to do with who controls the incredible amounts of money that are produced by college athletics in this country. we are talking billions and billions of dollars. >> the ncaa did not agree to an on-camera interview, but replied to questions by email. the organization says it spends about $200 million each year on scholarships for athletes like darius. but to get that scholarship, darius had to sign away his commercial rights to the ncaa. >> if you've watched clemson football on tv, you've probably seen this. the tradition is all the players get off the bus. then they run down our green grassy hills. everybody's jumping up and down. there are fireworks going off, cannons, everybody's yelling
screaming. there's nothing like being there with 80k of your closest friends. >> in two decades, the ncaa has built a stockpile. and its assets have increased by 1000 percent. the entire economy -- the t-shirts, ticket sales, and tv deals -- relies on the player on the field. now players are suing for a share. >> we're the marketers. we're marketing the nike here at clemson, the paw. we have on the nike checks, and making people be like 'ooh dad, i want those nike gloves, i want those nike cleats. matter of fact, can i get them in orange, and can i buy them at clemson?' >> do you know now what you gave away? >> absolutely, i definitely understand now what i gave away, and it was pretty much who i was. i became in a sense, in some people's eyes, i'll always feel
like a person, but in some people's eyes, i became more of a clemson's possession. >> meanwhile, the college football boom has been good to clemson. the school has committed $200 million in a decade to expand its stadium and practice facilities. >> corporate fingerprints are all over this game. up on the electronic banner, you can see it says verizon. we've also seen td bank, ups, coca cola, and nike. nike in fact is not just on the banner, it's on every single player's uniform, and on their shoes. >> we bring in a lot of profit in this city alone. so the fact that we're putting our lives on the line, there's people out there dying from this, being able to never walk again... >> coach dabo swinney enjoys celebrity status, and his opinions can sway the fan base.
>> what we try to teach our guys is to use football, to create the opportunities, take advantage of the platform and the brand and the marketing that you have available to you. as far as paying players, professionalizing college athletics, that's when you lose me. i'll go do something else, because there's enough entitlement in this world as it is. >> coach swinney just signed an 8-year contract that will pay three million dollars next season. meanwhile, 86 percent of college football players live below the federal poverty line. >> the reason why we're at a breaking point is that we currently have two economies existing side by side in one structure. you have the coaches are like the wolfiest wolves of wall st. so it's free market run amok. ayn rand would weep with joy at the economic situation for the coaches. but for the players its indentured servitude. >> all i know is, college football is a great opportunity.
>> do you wan't to be the quarterback? come on... >> the battle inside college football is over more than profits. athletes want their safety concerns addressed. adrian arrington's career at eastern illinois university did not lead to the nfl. in fact, due to his health problems, adrian can't hold down a job at all.
>> did they teach you to hit safely? >> in college, i never had no drills in like, where you had a form tackling. stuff like that. >> did they ever talk to you about how to hit people safely? >> after my concussion, i never had anyone tell me 'adrian, you gotta stop hitting like this.' >> noel lucero met adrian in college, when his concussions began to trigger seizures. >> to be honest i don't even remember the first time because there's been so many, but he had one in our bed, and at the time we had nightstands on either side, and he fell off and hit his shoulder on the nightstand, and his head was banging on the nightstand while he's having the seizure, so i'm moving everything out of the way, and just trying to put towels under his head, and he had bit his lip so he's bleeding. >> adrian is the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit seeking damages from the ncaa.
he owes more than $100,000 in medical bills. the ncaa has not offered adrian long-term medical care. >> when it was really going on in college. i honestly thought i was losing my mind. i would never remember nothing. people would come up to me and say, remember you got in the bar fight?' i'm like 'what was you talking about? i don't remember that.' most of the time, when i have seizures, i don't remember the situation, but then people come up to me and say stuff, it's like whoo, this is really scary, this is crazy. >> back to the days of roosevelt when the ncaa was first created, there's this mandate of protecting the student athlete, and safeguarding the health and wellbeing of the student athlete. >> his lawyer joe siprut says safety concerns inside college football are nothing new. >> so we're basically saying wait a minute, what happened to that idea?
>> today, more than a third of all concussions in college sports happen on the football field. the ncaa denies it is legally responsible for the long-term safety of college athletes. it claims the schools are liable. schools like adrian's alma mater, eastern illinois. >> that coach came to my house and sat down in my house, and told my mama and my daddy, we want your kid to come to our school, and we're gonna take care of your child. >> so football was your gateway to a four-year degree? >> mm-hm, and that's why i worked so hard at football. because coming from a family that didn't have much and living in a homeless shelter, living in housing authority, i felt that that was going to be the only way to pay for college, without stressing my parents out. >> you were pretty successful at eastern illinois? >> i was the captain, i felt that i did whatever coaches wanted me to do, and i was
having a good time until my concussions and bad health situation came up. >> did you talk to coaching staff? >> yes, i talked to coaching staff, and they just said when you come back in a few days, you'll be fine, and take these pills, called kepra, and they said as long as you take your medicine you'll be allowed to play, but they still kept going on throughout my career. >> he had head injury after head injury after head injury. and every time, he was involved in situations where the coaches didn't pull him out of the game, and he was put back in the game. his own father pulled him off on the sidelines and said 'adrian, are you ok?' didn't even recognize him. he was still ready to go back in and play. >> were the coaches going to put you back in the game? >> mm-hm, they were going to put me back in the game and my dad had to come from the bleachers they say and tell them not to put me back in the game. >> that's how impaired he was. and that happened a few too many times.
>> when arrington played, the ncaa had no specific "return to play" rule requiring schools to keep players with concussions on the sidelines. >> it takes at least 3-4 hours it's said, for the symptoms of a concussion to heal, and often times much more than that. the interesting thing about that is last time i checked a football game is 3-4 hours. so what that alone means, is that there are really no circumstances that someone who has sustained a concussion can ever go back during a game. >> did eastern illinois had a protocol or requirements in place? >> it couldn't have been a protocol if i get a concussion in the game, and you put me right back in the game to where my dad had to take me out of the game and not you guys. it can't be a protocol. >> but that changed after arrington graduated. in 2010, the ncaa required schools to develop guidelines for concussion safety. but arrington's suit alleges that this safety mandate was
designed to be weak. >> some of these emails are shocking. i would call them smoking guns. >> internal ncaa emails show former head of safety david klossner pushing for more stringent rules, and facing pushback from inside the organization. >> very interesting email here from klossner where he says, 'return same day issue seems to be our biggest barrier. i've yet to find legitimate data to show that same day return to play is a good thing.' >> klossner's the one in here who keeps bringing up the idea about rules for return to play, the safety of this and what an issue it is. >> "i've been pretty busy with meetings, and trying to get david klossner off my back. that dude wears me out." >> so the one guy raising the red flag here, is getting shut out? >> shut down, suppressed, and criticized. >> i think it's a big lie and a big facade that the ncaa is putting on with the commercials that their main priority is the
student athlete and their health. that's a lie. >> the ncaa has not investigated any school for violating its safety rules. >> at least in the case of the nfl players is that they're professional athletes being paid millions of dollars, and they have lawyers, they have agents, they have a union. they have all sorts of people protecting their interests vis-a-vis, the nfl, and the ownership. at the college level, the players have none of that. >> the ncaa says student-athlete safety is a priority, and is in settlement talks with adrian's lawyers. >> i just pray it doesn't get worse. looking at these other football players, that had similar injuries i don't want him to get alzheimer's when he's 35 or, you know... i try not to think about it.
>> we're north of chicago, where safety concerns drove players at northwestern university to seek a union. it's the day of the vote, and we're going to meet chris gradone, the team's senior punter. >> you ready for today? historic day. >> in january, nearly every player on the team signed the petition to call a union vote. but by april, their coach had chipped away at that support. >> did you know where you stood? >> no, i didn't. >> you were a swing vote.
>> he was personally offended that this whole thing was going on at his school. that's not what he wanted. that was actually a decent motivation for me to not want the union. >> the fact that you wouldn't want to disappoint your coach? >> yeah i feel like he's gotten me so much. got me in this school and got me this scholarship. i owe the guy a lot. >> gary kohlman is the players' lawyer. he cross examined coach fitzgerald at a labor board hearing this winter. >> he allowed me to walk through, not day-by-day, but hour-by-hour almost the life of a college football player. and then, at the end of it, i asked him, "isn't it true that being a college football player is a full time job? it was the first time he pushed back and he said 'no.' i said
'that's interesting, because i have an article here in the chicago tribune, in which you said two years ago that being a college football player is a full time job. did you say that?' and he said 'yes'. >> even if you guys vote no, now the precedent for other schools. >> yeah, that was a big part of the message. >> that's big as far as why we started this in the first place. >> have you heard from administration about not being able to go home on emergency leave to see your family? >> yeah, i don't believe in that tactic that they've used. they have said that if a union is brought in, all the benefits we get now are taken away and re-bargained for. so we might not get them back and we could actually lose benefits. >> there have been allegations by union supporters that northwestern engaged in unfair labor practices during the
election campaign. that is simply not true. we point with great pride to the fact, that if you look at our football team, we have a 97 percent graduation rate, the best in the country. our gpa is over 3.0. >> it's also a school that is aggressively anti-union when it comes to grad students, custodians, and all the rest of it. so they were not going to roll over for the athletes if they wanted to unionize. >> it's putting northwestern on the wrong side of history. >> some ex-northwestern players formed a group to advocate for current athletes. kevin brown played for the wildcats from 1981 to 1985. >> when you look at the ncaa, and northwestern is a part of this. so there's no distinction well that's an ncaa issue. no you're part of the association. so it's your issue as well. it's not just them. it's us. >> we've been talking and saying the same thing for many, many years.
they said the same thing in the mid-80s and before. just to say we'll take care of you, after a while that rings kind of hollow. >> players are being exploited. we all know that, and the question is, what is it going to take to correct that? but it is a fact. >> the players' ballots were not counted, and the election results not released. the school and the union are battling over whether players are employees under the law. that ruling will be made by the national labor relations board in washington, dc. >> this issue that started with kain colter in a classroom in northwestern has now grown much, much larger. house republicans have called
hearing today in congress. >> we share the concerns of players that progress is too slow, but forming a union is not the answer. >> it is simply the wrong way to go to address these issues. the number of questions that are raised, are so myriad and wide ranging... >> would a union negotiate over the number and length of practices? perhaps a union would bargain over the number of games. if the school and union are at an impasse, would athletes go on strike? are these schools ready to make some tough decisions like cutting support to other athletic programs like lacrosse field hockey, or even raising tuition? >> the list of grievances these players presented are a list of grievances that players could have presented 5 or 10 years ago across the college community, but they haven't been addressed. whether or not you have the security of a scholarship, for how long, whether you have health insurance, stipends, transfers...we've been over
this. we've been over this and over this and over this... >> it's bringing us into a sea of complete uncertainty. >> the ncaa says it will fight the northwestern effort all the way to the supreme court. >> i'm not saying the ncaa created institutional racism and poverty in the us. but the ncaa consciously benefits, because they put players from a particular background in a position where rocking the boat is lethal for their opportunities to be able to pull their family out of poverty. >> the ncaa has acknowledged, that div i basketball and football are all about maximizing profits. it's no secret anymore, the curtain has been pulled back. >> they're generating
an insane amount of money. they're being told what they can or cannot eat, what they can or cannot study, and it's reached a breaking point. there's no moral center anymore, the center will not hold, the center is not holding. when there's no controlling moral authority, and right now there is no controlling moral authority, the system can no longer exist. >> fault lines labor day marathon the true cost of cheap labor >> nothing can be worse than this people burnt to ash... >> horrendous conditions... traffic labor on us bases... management stealing wages... exploited children put